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Jean Pictet - Red Cross

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5054 | Film ID: 3444, 3445, 3446, 3447

A leading member of the International Council of the Red Cross, Jean Pictet was responsible for the preparatory work which led to the conclusion of the four Geneva Conventions in 1949.

FILM ID 3444 -- Camera Rolls #1-3 -- 01:00:08 to 01:27:25
Roll 1 Jean Pictet sits in his office in the International Committee of the Red Cross (Comité International de la Croix-Rouge). Pictet began working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1937 when he was twenty-five years old. He started as a legal secretary and worked closely with the President of the ICRC, Max Huber. In 1946, Pictet was appointed Director. Though skeptical of the existence of concentration and extermination camps, the ICRC became certain of their existence in October 1942. Pictet planned and wrote a public appeal, but it was never made public.

Roll 2 01:05:05 Lanzmann asks Pictet how rumors of the camps spread throughout Geneva. Pictet explains that while he believed the camps were very bad, he was not fully convinced of the existence of mass exterminations until 1943. The ICRC first became suspicious when the Germans refused to provide any news of the Jews held in the camps. Pictet states that he and the ICRC feared if they insisted too much concerning the treatment of Jewish prisoners, the Germans would have expelled the ICRC delegates, thus hindering aid to all prisoners.

Roll 3 01:16:21 Lanzmann asks Pictet if the ICRC had a moral duty to help those in the camps. Pictet states that the ICRC had to work within the bounds set by the precedent of limited protesting the ICRC had established. He claims there were two fundamental stances one could take on the activity of the German government: justice or charity. He believes that the ICRC could not have continued to provide aid to the civilian and political prisoners if they had made a public moral judgment. The ICRC protested rarely, and only when their information was based of eyewitness accounts from their delegates.

FILM ID 3445 - Camera Rolls #4-6 -- 02:00:10 to 02:34:48
Roll 4 Pictet describes the trouble the ICRC faced regarding lodging a public protest. The ICRC was either not permitted to visit camps, or shown only what the Germans wanted them to see. On June 26, 1944 the ICRC visited Theresienstadt, which had been completely remodeled and "beautified" so as to trick the ICRC into believing the Jews were being treated well. Pictet claims that while the delegate wrote a positive report on the camp, neither he nor the ICRC were taken in by the propaganda. Pictet affirms the importance of the ICRC remaining neutral in favor of providing aid. Pictet and Lanzmann discuss how the logo of the Red Cross was widely used by the Nazis. It was on the trucks which transported Zyklon B to Auschwitz and on the hospital, the "Lazarett," in Treblinka which hid the true purpose of the building: to exterminate prisoners.

Roll 5 02:11:25 Several dozen delegates in Germany risked expulsion if the ICRC antagonized the German government. The Allies knew what was taking place in the camps; in December 1942 they described the extent of the atrocities in a declaration. Aid for the Allied prisoners of war in Germany amounted to over three billion francs. Delegates were able to provide aid to prisoners of war, but were not allowed into camps holding Jews. Aid for Jews was provided mainly by the Joint Distribution Committee and the War Refugee Board. Pictet continues to use the phrase "political detainee/prisoner" to describe Jewish inmates from when the ICRC had to maintain courteous relations with Germany. According to Pictet, it would have been impossible to condemn the Germans while at the same time upholding a diplomatic relationship.

[AUDIO BUT NO IMAGE 02:22:22 TO 02:35:08]
Roll 6 02:23:07 Although the war was won, the Jewish population was annihilated. The ICRC did not have the power to prevent the development of the camps. The ICRC helped where it could, in one instance through The Division of Special Assistance (DAS). Though the German government did not provide the ICRC with addresses to send supplies to, they acquired such information from witnesses and other means. This way, the ICRC was able to send about 1,600,000 parcels of aid. Pictet has several receipts of aid he kept from the war, including one from the Royal Family of Belgium. Lanzmann and Pictet discuss the actions of Count Bernadotte, who negotiated the release of about 31,000 Jews from German camps and Jean-Marie Musy, the former president of the Swiss Confederation who rescued 1,200 Jews. Towards the end of the war the ICRC was able to enter the camps and provide aid to prisoners and even remove some from the camps. When the camps were liberated the ICRC provided medical aid and helped survivors contact family members.

FILM ID 3446 - Camera Roll #7 -- 03:00:09 to 03:10:33
Lanzmann and Pictet examine an acknowledgement of receipt that was sent to the camp of Dachau. Ten additional people who had benefited from the parcel had written their names on the receipt. Consequently, the ICRC was able to provide aid to even more detainees. [AUDIO BUT NO IMAGE 03:07:17 to 03:10:33]. Pictet describes the ICRC's aid as weak compared to the immensity of the suffering, yet enormous compared to what was done by others.

FILM ID 3447 - Camera Rolls #7AM,7A,8 Coupe -- 04:00:06 to 04:09:22
Receipt of aid from King Leopold III, king of the Belgians. 04:00:20 Receipt of aid from Princess de Réthy. 04:00:29 The building of the Comité International de la Croix-Rouge (CICR) in Geneva. 04:01:51 View of the street next to the CICR. 04:03:10 The red cross, symbol of the organization, as a flag on top of the building. 04:08:12 Scene of a boat named Helvétie.

Event:  1979 April 19
Production:  1985
Geneva, Switzerland
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:02:47
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